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Diary of a Fantasy Madman
How Did That Happen? PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 29 March 2015 00:00

Like many fantasy owners, during the minutes, hours, and then days following my drafts, I spend way too much time second guessing myself. What could I have done differently to construct a stronger overall roster? Where did things go wrong? Now listen, I don't want to sound too negative here. Usually, more goes right than goes wrong. That said, when reviewing my drafts, I always have that feeling that I could've done better. And as much as I prefer auctions to snake drafts, the urge to second guess is even stronger when it comes to auctions. After all, every owner has a shot at every player, and if you fail to come away with a certain player that you coveted, whether it be due to not going the extra dollar or depleting your budget by overpaying for a number of other players, it's your fault. Using the draft position excuse isn't an option. On the other hand, it's unfair to beat yourself up too much. All you can do is make the best decision possible using the information you have at the time. Easier said than done.

Last Saturday, my fourth season in the Mixed Auction Tout Wars league officially got underway, and I spent far too much time during the proceedings shaking my head as one player after the next was bought for a bargain price after I had already filled that roster slot with a player purchased for list price. In most of these cases, I still prefer my guy, even when factoring in the price difference. But not in all of them. On that note, let's go around the diamond and take a look at the best buys at each position. The player I drafted for that spot is in parenthesis.

Yasmani Grandal for $8 (Wilson Ramos for $10 as C)

1B  Albert Pujols for $20 (Anthony Rizzo for $40 as 1B)

2B  Daniel Murphy for $7 (Kolten Wong for $17 as 2B)

SS  Alexei Ramirez for $12 (Elvis Andrus for $15 as SS)

3B  Pablo Sandoval for $12 (Kyle Seager for $22 as 3B)

OF  Yoenis Cespedes for $15 (Brandon Moss for $17 as OF2)

OF  Mark Trumbo for $9 (Brandon Moss for $17 as OF2)

OF  Nelson Cruz for $14 (Brandon Moss for $17 as OF2)

SP  Jered Weaver for $5 (Lance Lynn for $9 as SP3)

CL  Santiago Casilla for $4 (Glen Perkins for $12 as CL2)

Missing out on Cespedes, Cruz, and to a lesser extent Trumbo at those prices bothers me a little, but Moss was one of my main targets and I got him for fair value. Rizzo going for twice as much as Pujols looks ridiculous on paper, but again, Rizzo was both my first and second choice at first base. I'm not too high on Casilla this year, but since I later drafted Sergio Romo for $1, it would've been nice to lock up San Francisco's saves for a combined $5 as opposed to shelling out 12 bucks for Perkins, even though I consider that to be a fair price.

You can check out my full Tout Wars draft recap here

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 March 2015 07:31
 
Correlation Conjecturing (Part II) PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 15 March 2015 00:00

Last week, I looked at the 2014 Spring Training hitting leaders in the standard 5x5 rotisserie categories. So, as promised, we will now switch gears to the pitching leaders and review what happened to these guys once the calendar turned to April.

WINS

Jesse Chavez (5) - Actually, among pitchers who were exclusively starters during Spring Training, Marco Estrada's four wins led the Majors. But an inconsistent first few months of the season landed him in the bullpen, and he enjoyed considerably more success pitching in a relief role. As for Chavez, he also split the season between the starting rotation and the pen, posting solid numbers across the board (3.45 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 8.4 K/9). The 31-year-old righty is a legitimate candidate to open the 2015 campaign in the A's starting rotation, and he makes for a fine under the radar option in AL-only leagues and deeper mixed formats if he does indeed earn a rotation spot.

SAVES

Jean Machi (4) - Spring Training saves cannot be taken seriously, as closers often get their work in way before the ninth inning. So feel free to ignore this, especially since Machi's ERA was 5.00. That said, he did go on to have an excellent regular season, registering a 2.58 ERA and 0.95 WHIP while collecting 17 holds. Still, he's at best third on San Francisco's closer pecking order behind Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo, which means that he is irrelevant for fantasy purposes unless you're in an NL-only league that uses holds as a category.

ERA

Justin Verlander (0.00) - Now this is interesting. Verlander's Spring Training performance could not have been much better, as he tossed 20 scoreless innings while allowing just eight hits and whiffing 17. As we all know, the regular season was a completely different story, with the former dual MVP/Cy Young award winner suffering through his worst season since 2008. And guess what? Through two starts this spring, he's pitched five shutout innings. Regardless, I wouldn't mind taking a chance on Verlander this year at the drastically reduced cost.

WHIP

Justin Verlander (0.65) - Oh, and the WHIP was pretty good too. Look, I understand that drafting Verlander this season is a risk, and it would be unwise to count on a return to ace form. But does he really deserve to be ranked outside of the top-50 starting pitchers? And yes, that is where he's being ranked by many outlets. To tell you the truth, I'm intrigued by this buying opportunity.

STRIKEOUTS

C.J. Wilson (35) - Not only did Wilson fan 35 batters across 28 2/3 innings last spring, but he recorded a 1.88 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Then of course, he puts up his worst regular season stat line since he was converted to a full-time starter back in 2010. Wilson did average over 210 innings pitched per season from 2010-2013, so perhaps all of that work caught up with him, and he finally did succumb to the DL in July due to a sprained ankle. His proven track record suggests that he could be a decent value pick this year because his price will be minimal. But the consistently high walk rate (3.9 career BB/9) limits his ceiling. Personally, I'd rather go in a different direction when rounding out my fantasy staff.

I've never paid too much attention to Spring Training stats, and that's not going to change anytime soon.

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 March 2015 00:44
 
Correlation Conjecturing PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 08 March 2015 00:00

With Spring Training games officially underway, fantasy owners will finally be provided with concrete 2015 box score data. But how seriously should we value these stats when preparing for our drafts? The majority opinion has always been to not take a player's spring performance too seriously due to both the small sample size and the lower quality of opponent, as a significant percentage of Spring Training players are bound for the Minors. But according to Dan Rosenheck, a sports editor at The Economist, it's a mistake to simply dismiss this data. You can learn more about his findings here, but all this got me thinking that it would be sort of fun to look back at Spring Training 2014. Who were the leaders in the traditional 5x5 rotisserie categories and how did their regular season pan out? This week, we will focus on the hitting categories before shifting over to the pitching side next week.

BATTING AVERAGE

Michael Brantley (.500) - Brantley's breakout 2014 campaign was one of the biggest surprises of last season, despite the red-hot spring in which he went 25-for-50. He was a popular sleeper pick (I remember Lawr was touting him), but anyone who tells you that they foresaw a top-25 season is lying. Personally, I'm a bit wary of spending what it will take to draft him this season, especially considering that he hit only five home runs in the second half after slugging 15 longballs prior to the All-Star break. Can we truly count on another 20 homers? However, the batting average should be strong once again.

HOME RUNS

Jose Bautista/Mike Trout/Chris Heisey (6) - Let's play a game called "Which of these players does not belong?" OK, that was too easy. Heisey has teased us with his power potential so many times that it's tough to take him seriously. And as it turned out, those who didn't take him seriously were correct, as he recorded a .222 average with only eight home runs in 275 regular season at-bats. Now with the Dodgers, Heisey's at-bats will be minimal playing in a crowded Los Angeles outfield. His fantasy relevance is limited to deep NL-only leagues. As for Bautista and Trout, they're both pretty good.

RBI

Mike Moustakas (18) - Looking only at Moustakas' Spring Training and Postseason stats from 2014, you would think that he's a fantasy star. The problem was the regular season. Through his first 514 big league games, the former top prospect sports a .236 batting average, and after belting 20 home runs in 2012, he's left the yard a combined 27 times over the past two seasons. The good news is that Moose is still just 26 years of age, so don't give up on him just yet. As a cheap CI in deeper mixed leagues, you could do worse.

RUNS

Austin Jackson/Brad Miller/Logan Schafer (17) - Even though he failed to follow up his promising spring with a highly productive regular season, Jackson is a guy who I think is a bit underrated heading into 2015. Sure, he strikes out too much and is unlikely to be an asset in the batting average department (though as a .274 career hitter, he won't be a liability either). But hitting atop an improved Mariners lineup, Austin could very well rank among the league leaders in runs and chip in 20 steals along the way. The massive power outage (four home runs) was unexpected, but Jackson was coming off three consecutive double-digit home run campaigns. Draft him at the price of a fourth or fifth outfielder in a mixed league and don't be surprised if you are rewarded with OF3 production. Miller, like Mike Moustakas, has yet to live up to expectations but could make for a decent low-cost MI pick in deeper leagues, assuming of course that he wins Seattle's starting shortstop job. Schafer is a fantasy non-factor.

STOLEN BASES

Jarrod Dyson/Billy Burns (10) - Despite not receiving everyday playing time, Dyson remains on the fantasy radar thanks to his elite speed. We're talking three straight seasons of at least 30 swipes in fewer than 300 at-bats. Unfortunately, he's not a useful contributor in any other category, and as long as he remains a part-timer, that's not going to change. Barring an injury to one of the Royals outfielders, for mixed league purposes, Dyson is strictly a waiver wire fill-in option.

Remember Burns and his .306 average with 12 runs scored along with the ten swipes in only 26 Spring Training contests? So, what happened to this guy? Well, he didn't even open the season with the big club and went on to appear in a grand total of 13 games for the A's, collecting one hit in six at-bats.

Now listen, I'm a lot more optimistic about Marcus Semien than I ever was about Billy Burns, but let's wait awhile before we hand over any hardware.

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 08 March 2015 09:53
 
Saving for the Future PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 01 March 2015 00:00

In mixed leagues, it's nice to have three closers to open the season, but it's by no means a requirement. Actually, rather than paying for that third stopper, my formula for addressing the saves category is usually to draft one top-tier closer, one closer who isn't exceptional but faces very little job competition and one high-end setup man who has a legitimate chance to take over the closer role at some point during the first half. This worked out rather well for me in Mixed Auction Tout Wars last year as I purchased the trio of David Robertson, Addison Reed and Mark Melancon. Robertson was outstanding from start to finish. Reed was tough to watch at times but he did manage to hold onto the ninth inning gig for the entire season, saving 32 games while whiffing well over a batter per inning. As for Melancon, he replaced Jason Grilli as the Pirates closer in mid-May and never looked back.

Can I repeat this feat in 2015? I sure hope so. But the key will be the third part, that is identifying the right setup man. Blowing out your FAAB budget on speculative or short-term closers during the season can be damaging, so getting 30-plus saves out of a $1 or $2 draft day investment is huge. Here are some of this year's top candidates. Note that all of these relievers have already been drafted in my 50-round NFBC Draft Champions league, and we're roughly halfway complete. I've included their draft position along with the draft position of their team's expected Opening Day closer.

Brad Boxberger (13.10), Jake McGee (13.08) - Boxberger was the first non-closer relief pitcher selected, and for good reason. The 26-year-old is coming off a season in which he posted a 2.37 ERA and 0.84 WHIP while striking out more than 14 batters per nine innings. McGee was no slouch either, registering a 1.89 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 11.4 K/9. Although he figures to open the season as Tampa Bay's closer, the leash won't be too long with Boxberger waiting in the wings. Still, McGee did rack up 19 saves last year, so he's already proven he can handle the role. Boxberger might offer the best ratios of any setup man on this list, but it also would not be surprising if he receives the fewest number of save chances.

Joakim Soria (21.03), Joe Nathan (17.03) - The overwhelming majority of owners seem to have completely given up on Nathan, and that's understandable. Yeah, he did improve in the second half last season, but his first half was so horrendous that an improvement isn't saying much. I wouldn't mind Nathan as my third closer, but I won't be going out of my way to draft him either since taking him necessitates using another pick on Soria to provide a handcuff (a la fantasy football). The owner of 178 career saves, Soria certainly boasts the kind of ninth inning track record that any owner would be looking for in a late-round flier. I'm surprised he fell to the 21st round.

Sergio Romo (22.05), Santiago Casilla (12.07) - This is a Lawr Michaels Zen thing, because I have no convincing data to suggest that Casilla is bound to lose his grip on the closer job. He's been a highly effective big league reliever for quite some time now, regardless of which inning he pitches. But I just have a feeling that Romo will be saving games before the 2015 campaign is through. He was a top-10 fantasy closer in 2013 before a few poor outings doomed him last year. And he quickly rebounded, recording a 1.80 ERA and 0.85 WHIP in the second half. I think the Giants prefer Romo as their closer, but again, this is strictly a Zen thing.

Adam Ottavino (24.08), LaTroy Hawkins (20.04) - Hawkins cannot possibly survive another full season as a closer, can he? It's possible, but I don't think any of us can confidently predict the performance level of any Rockies pitcher, let alone a 42-year-old. Well, Ottavino (70-to-16 K/BB ratio last season) is the guy to own if you're banking on a Hawkins demotion. Honestly, I'd rather avoid this situation entirely.

Bobby Parnell (25.01), Jenrry Mejia (14.03) - Mets Manager Terry Collins was quoted over the winter saying that the team would like to reinstall Parnell as their closer once he proves to be healthy. On his way back from Tommy John surgery, Parnell is expected to miss the first month of the season and Mejia was solid in the closer role last year, so he will probably need to struggle in April to open the door for Parnell. But as you can tell from the 11-round draft position discrepancy, the market isn't taking Collins' comments too seriously. Parnell's progress is worth monitoring closely throughout the spring. He makes for a sneaky late-round lottery ticket in deeper leagues.

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 01 March 2015 00:50
 
Flexible Spending PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 22 February 2015 00:00

Two years ago, I decided to try out an NFBC Draft Champions league. I've been hooked ever since. For those of you who are not familiar with the format, Draft Champions is a 15-team mixed league slow draft where every owner drafts a squad of 50 players (23 starters plus 27 bench players), the caveat being that in addition to no trading, which is a standard NFBC rule, pickups are not allowed. So, the 50 players you draft are the 50 players you will have at your disposal through the entire season. Injuries to key players can be crippling in these leagues, so building depth at every position is a must. And that's easier said than done, being that the available player pool during the latter stages of the draft becomes frightening. But even more important than the strategy element, the fact that these are slow drafts in addition to being ultra-deep drafts allows you to do ample research in between picks, becoming so familiar with the player pool that you will be well prepared for all of your other drafts, even if it's a deep non-mixed league.

As I write this, we are midway through the 10th round in Draft Champions, and just like the Mixed LABR draft that I discussed last week, a theme has already emerged. I've never been in a draft where starting pitchers have gone off the board as quickly as in this one. Personally, I like to wait on starting pitching, opting instead to load up on bats early and fill the majority of my staff with lower cost starters that I consider to be undervalued. Well, in this particular draft, my usually effective plan has blown up in my face. My carefully chosen group of "undervalued" starting pitchers aren't being undervalued, so forget about cheap aces (I had to draft Cole Hamels at 4.05, because there was no way he was making it back to me at 5.11). And we can even forget about many of the SP2-SP3 types.

On that note, since LABR is also a 15-teamer, I figured that comparing my NFBC draft to Mixed LABR could be telling. Here's a look at a handful of starting pitchers who were taken significantly earlier in the NFBC draft than in Mixed LABR. In parenthesis, you will see the LABR draft position followed by the NFBC draft position.

Yordano Ventura (13.05, 8.15) -What's not to like about Ventura following an outstanding first full season in the big leagues? The only thing to complain about is the walk rate (3.4 BB/9), but at 23 years of age, Ventura has plenty of time to work out those issues. Still, 120th overall seems a bit high. I'd be thrilled with Ventura as my SP3, but there's no way I'm drafting three starting pitchers with my first eight picks, so if that's his price in a non-keeper, I guess I won't be owning him.

Matt Harvey (7.04, 4.03) - What can we expect from Harvey this year? To be honest, I have no clue. Usually, pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery need some time to return to form, particularly in the control department, so I'd rather not invest heavily in him for 2015. The LABR draft price is reasonable since there's a realistic chance that he can outperform 7th round value. The NFBC price? No thanks. There's simply no profit to be made.

Tyson Ross (9.13, 6.15) - Pitching exclusively as a starter for the first time in his career, Ross delivered a career-best season last year. Like Ventura, his walk rate was on the high side (3.3 BB/9), but the 27-year-old righty remains an attractive draft day option thanks to an excellent strikeout rate, a favorable home ballpark (1.88 ERA at home last season) and a much improved supporting lineup. I'd be comfortable with Ross as my SP2 in a 15-team mixed league, so 9th round is fine. But 6th round? That's pushing it.

Jeff Samardzija (7.09, 5.01) - The fact that Samardzija is moving to a hitter-friendly park combined with the fact that he has yet to enjoy back-to-back elite level seasons would surely keep his draft day price in the mid-tier SP2 range. Or so I thought. Again, the LABR draft spot seems about right while the NFBC spot seems aggressive. What else is new?

Zack Wheeler (12.03, 9.10) - A popular breakout candidate for 2015, Wheeler certainly carries plenty of upside, but he will need to significantly improve his control (3.8 BB/9) to realize his full potential. I'd be willing to take a chance on him as my SP3 but you won't find me drafting three starting pitchers within the first nine rounds.

So, what's the lesson learned here? Sometimes, it makes a lot of sense to zig when everyone else zags. In the case of this NFBC draft, that would mean assembling an elite hitting core while my league mates grab starting pitcher after starting pitcher. But there comes a time when you have to start playing along to avoid being completely shut out from all of the pitchers on your target list, even if you're the type who prefers to wait on starting pitching.

My turn to pick again. Back to work.  

Last Updated on Sunday, 22 February 2015 00:56
 
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